Why that ‘Women and Investing' seminar you're planning is a bad idea

Recognizing differences is important, but singling out women is a mistake

Apr 18, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

By Liz Skinner

Want to attract more women to your advisory practice? Putting together a seminar on women and investing might just be the last thing you want to do.

“It's not a good idea to put on a ‘Women and Investing' seminar,” said Don Grant, senior investment management specialist for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, during an InvestmentNews webcast Tuesday on attracting female clients.

While it is important to recognize that many women look at money and finances differently than men, they don't want to be singled out. “You have to understand that the process is different, but don't point that out,” Mr. Grant said.

Mr. Grant was one of three advisers featured in the webcast for their expertise in building a female client base. They stressed the importance of listening to women, making them feel at ease and approaching performance without focusing just on numbers. Additionally, it doesn't hurt to be an available resource for them when they have certain purchases to decide on, they said.

Mr. Grant said working with female clients requires advisers to listen closely and show them they were heard. Advisers then need to convert what they've learned into an investment strategy, he said

Mr. Grant stressed the need to be genuine in helping clients. He mentioned a few unique services he's performed, such as helping a client buy a Jaguar, her first car purchase as a widow, and selecting cellphones and service plans with older women overwhelmed by the features and terms.

Karen Altfest, executive vice president of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, said women often seek out female advisers because they feel more comfortable talking to another woman. For example, she's had a client call from a carpet store to ask what how much she should pay for a Persian rug, something she might feel uneasy asking a male adviser.

“Women do have a language of our own, and you can't learn it at Rosetta Stone,” Ms. Altfest said, referring to the foreign-language tool.

Eleanor Blayney, president of Directions LLC, said female clients don't want to sit around comparing benchmarks with performance numbers — something male clients often want to do. But that doesn't mean women don't care about results.

“Women want to know what it means for decisions like sending their kids to camp or taking a vacation,” she said.

Women have special financial needs that a top-notch adviser can address, Ms. Blayney said. For instance, most men die married, but women are likely to be single for the last third of their lives. Knowing what community resources are available is something that can really benefit these clients, she said.

And on the other end of the life spectrum, the financial lives of young women can be greatly improved if an adviser can teach them about the value of human capital, Ms. Blayney said. Giving them guidance on asking for higher salaries or how to handle a performance review can really help maximize their time in the workplace, she said.

Tuesday's webcast is the first of three being conducted on women and investing by InvestmentNews. The other two are scheduled for Aug. 14 and Oct. 30. The webcasts are part of a larger initiative by InvestmentNews to educate financial advisers on working with women. It includes a special Spotlight report, an INTV series and a slide show.

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